Cyberbullying Rates Across the World, and the Role of Culture

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UPDATE: See the cyberbullying research by country in our new interactive map and section of our site!

Being Americans, we tend to focus a lot of attention on offline and online peer harassment here at home.  It is interesting, though, to consider the cross-cultural research that has been done on traditional bullying and think about whether they parallel similar trends in cyberbullying across various countries. From a recent International Journal of Public Health article, this figure depicts bullying rates among boys aged 11, 13, and 15 years of age from the 2005-2006 school year across 40 countries:



…while this figure focuses in on girls in that age range:



We are not aware of any major cross-cultural studies involving cyberbullying, but it is interesting to look at some of the prevalence rates in specific countries across the world.  We’ve been working with David Burt over at Microsoft Trustworthy Computing, and he dug up most of the following statistics:

European Union
6% of Internet-using teens ages 9-16 reported they had been sent nasty or hurtful messages online, while 3% reported they sent such messages to others
Risks and safety on the internet: The perspective of European children,  EU Kids Online, Summer 2010.

Belgium
34.3% of Belgian teenagers have been bullied via internet or mobile phone
European Commission Survey, Nov. 2009.

Poland
52% of Polish Internet users aged 12-17 have been exposed to abuse on the Web or via mobile phones
European Commission Survey, Nov. 2009.

Germany
14.1% of students also experience the kinds of incidents (harassment, denigration, outing & trickery and exclusion) that constitute cyberbullying
Cyberbullying in Germany, Psychology Science Quarterly, 2009.

Japan
Ten percent of high school students said they have been harassed through e-mails, websites or blogs
Survey by the Hyogo Prefectual Board of Education, 2007 (Citied in Reuters article).

Spain
Between 25% and 29% of all teenagers have been bullied via their mobile phone or the internet over the past year University of Valencia (UV), 2010.

South Korea
A survey of 272 students at four South Korean universities found that three-fourths knew a victim of cyber bullying and more than half knew a cyber bully.
University of South Florida, 2010

Sometimes I am quick to blame the media in our own country for glamorizing verbal and physical violence in different ways – by adults and teens alike.  That said, the frequencies of real-world bullying in the aforementioned charts and those of cyberbullying across a spattering of European and Eastern countries seem to demonstrate that these problem behaviors occur with pretty similar regularity.  While it is easy to scapegoat the media because some of what we see these days shocks our collective conventional conscience, I feel we must conceive of peer harassment as a problem with human nature rather than national origin.

Justin and I will continue to dialogue about this in the weeks ahead – we’d love to hear your perspectives on how strong an influence culture actually is, and what other contributing factors may be more important.  We also hope to work on a major international cyberbullying cross-cultural study in the future, which will hopefully provide some answers to these questions.

9 Comments

  1. We also need to remember it isn't just children who get cyberbullied but adults do sometimes as well and sometimes an adult is the one doing the bullying such as in the tragic Megan Meier case.

  2. Dear Sameer

    I think those differences are rather caused by differt operationalization of the concept in different studies. I have fiished now the big project on the sample of Polish 15 y.o. (N=2143). When cyberbullying was narrwed to aggression within the peer group, regular witha negative intention and imbalance of ower than the rates for oland are much lower. Here in question the respondents were asked to have previous 12 months in mind. 20% were cyber bullies and about 7% cyber victim and 7% cyber bully-victims. The rates are often higher when the respondents are asked about single incidents irrespective to the context of the acts. But indeed cross-cultural study with agrees common methodology could be beneficial.

  3. Just a note to "Yes" – although a lot of people talked about the Megan Meier case as cyberbullying, it was cyberharrassment. Cyberbullying, according to my understanding, only takes place between two minors. Cyberharrassment is much more serious, with a bigger consequence in the courts.

  4. Because of the combinations of stressors and many other factors, one’s personality, and one’s life experiences, stress becomes a complicated phenomenon. Adding cyberbullying and for some individuals the inability to cope with this type of problem does not help adolescences deal with problems on a daily basis. Social controls have broken down and can no longer carry out their stated functions in prevention and responding to cyberbulling. Motivated offenders take advantage of suitable targets generally thinking they are more powerful than their victims. However, today’s bullying is different from the old traditional bullying. Traditional bullying mostly was face to face and in my opinion dealt with on a local level. Now today’s bullying adolescences take it to another level. Today bullying is done in many different ways and largely through the internet. But, sometimes this type of behavior can be difficult for adults. Many adults are computer illiterate and therefore, this can be challenging. Unable to keep up with kids and their usages of computer activities adults cannot monitor inappropriate behaviors. And sometime the kid’s behaviors are viewed as unimportant. However, devastating implications are beginning to arise from the ineffective strategies as technology is being used as a weapon. Individuals and communities need to get involved because the consequences may affect us or someone we know personally. Adults need to encourage adolescences to engage in critical thinking decision making, by education them about the potential consequences of cyberbullying. Effective parenting techniques and the ability to have a trusting relationship with adolescences will help greatly combat cyberbullying.

    “The Constitution only gives you the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”

    — Ben Franklin

  5. I was born in Venezuela. Every day raises the delinquency and the violence in my country. That is why I wanted to know the relationship between them and social networks. I found many interesting articles related to the theme. In one of them, the author report that a group of Venezuelan students were recently arrested by local police for various theft charges.

    After further investigation, authorities proved that they were using many social networking sites, to especially Facebook, to monitor their victims' activity. They followed updates, inspected the financial status and analyzed pictures from the victim's profile to gain precious information about their location, house arrangement and time table. After gaining all the necessary data, the man, assisted by the couple, robbed his friend's house when the victim was away.

    Authorities are also warning that sites like Hi5, Facebook, Sonico or Twitter can and have been used by South American kidnappers in the past. It is world-recognized that Venezuela, and many other South American countries have a real potential danger and criminal habit for kidnapping offenders.
    http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/venezuela/0911

  6. In an Israeli study of 500 teens and their parents, each pair was asked about the teens’ internet behavior. 70% of teens described themselves as consumers of porn. Only a small percentage of the parents thought their children viewed porn. Like in everywhere in the world, the online bullying is an growing problem. I lived in Israel for 6 years and I know that sadly the Israeli society is more violent than before, and the schools are hardly isolated from this change. It is not so nice to share with all of you but the school staff members have been given responsibility for punishing offenders with methods including transferring them to different classes, brief suspensions and teacher-parent conferences, and long-term suspensions. A few years ago, the cell phones were permitted in the class. But I read that the ministry of education has a prevention program that includes a complete ban on cell phones and other gadgets in classrooms, and an amendment to the Student Rights Law to reinforce regulation on expelling students.

  7. Some studies have shown that most victims of cyberbullying know the person who is harassing them. However, the development of sites which allow people to post anonymous comments are now leading sites of cyberbullying. Sites like juicycampus and the more recent collegeacb allow college students comment on other students and organizations at their school without leaving a name. This clearly has some implications as it has resulted in those students and organizations being bullied through name-calling and more. These anonymous sites make me very nervous as people can not be held liable for their actions. The victims on these sites can take no legal action for incorrect information being posted about them, such as "so and so has an std." The law needs to consider this as this statement would be considered defamatory and yet the victim can't claim defamation regardless of the damage such a comment has done to his/her life. I am scared to see how the further development of such sites will affect the field of cyberbullying.

  8. Hi – a question – how come the linked article from which these statistics are taken does not mention ‘cyber-bullying’? It is just traditional bullying stats.

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